Here is a guest report from Scott Shipley of George Mason University on the von Storch seminar at Boulder.
Hans has published his presentation at the following address:
I had the pleasure of listening to Hans von Storch yesterday at NCAR. A seminar was quickly called at 3pm, and the Table Mesa conference room was packed (standing room only). Commenting on the addition of a panel of experts to comment after his talk, Hans mentioned that he was uncomfortable with the new approach but it would be ok, since Fred Singer had also been subjected to such treatment (laughter). Hans also observed that the last time he was at NCAR, there were only ten people in the audience, suggesting that this was because of the political sensitivity the topic has acquired.
Hans proceeded to give an enjoyable lecture in two parts, the first examining the failure of the Mann et al. technique but not of the “hockeystick” in general, and the second part examining the politics and societal reaction to the “hockeystick” as a “condensational symbol” (a symbol with emotive power). He stated that we should not be too quick to embrace complex statistical techniques which offer “magic bullets”. He agreed that the McIntyre et al. analysis with “red noise” demonstrates the failure of the Mann et al. technique, but not necessarily of their conclusion. He also counseled everyone to allow time for the scientific method to settle controversies, which may take many more years. His own work results in a “hockeystick”, but with a clear minimum near the Little Ice Age and some “kinks” in the handle. Offered as support for the adequacy of the scientific method, Hans mentioned Spencer & Christy’s result on atmospheric temperature, how the disagreement with surface temperature trends caused the NAS to convene a panel of experts, and how that panel was able to demonstrate a reconcilation of the surface and satellite records. This reconciliation involves some unspecified correction to the Spencer and Christy procedure, of which I am unaware, but which the NCAR audience seemed to take as fact.
The second part of his lecture addressed the difficulties of fighting a condensational symbol. He stated that the Hockeystick has become such a symbol, and similar to the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry, no amount of patient explanation or truth telling will be sufficient to undo the damage. Citing his own statistics on public opinion (which might have been a sample of as few as seven people?), he stated that public opinion is currently going against climate science. What makes it harder, is that those groups who are arguing for the “hockeystick” (climate scientists, insurance companies, greens) are also the same groups who will benefit the most from acceptance. This argument has been used by the “evil” (sic.) climate sceptics to increase public and government suspicions of the climate majority’s motives.
At the table were Caspar Amman, Doug Nychka, Roger Pielke Jr., and Warren Washington. Doug was introduced as a new mathematics/statistics expert hired by NCAR. He asked if anyone in the audience was uncomfortable with Hans showing only one or two “hockeysticks”, when there should in fact be an ensemble of temperature curves given the uncertainties in the inputs. Few were uncomfortable. When asked about this, Hans explained that he only had two curves, and they were both “hockeysticks”, but that was not the point of his lecture. Doug agreed that Hans’ small sample was sufficient to test his hypothesis, that the Mann technique failed but the “hockeystick” is not ruled out. Caspar went into great detail about how all of his GCM model runs yield hockeysticks. Roger talked about condensational symbols as an academic pursuit. Warren said that in his 42 years at NCAR, he has at least learned that “time will tell”. Warren added light-heartedly that Hans advises us to not believe complex methods bearing magic bullets, but that Hans’ own procedure is quite complex and so should also be discounted? (cordial laughter)